Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Commitment to Self-Care

By  0 Comments

“I know that I need to take the time to take better care of myself regarding my eating, exercise, sleep and making time for me in my daily life, but right now I have to manage my children, my elderly parents, the state of the COVID up-ticking and the effects on my job and I just don’t have the time or the energy to put towards myself. When things calm down, I will be able to start up again.” 

Although it’s not a question, I wanted to address this statement in this column because I hear it often and it represents a major problem that most of us women face today. That problem is that life is coming at us at an intensity that is difficult to manage. I am 58 years old and I am sure that women reading this issue who are similar in age will concur with what I am about to say. It used to be, 20 or 30 years ago, that there would be a period of time when demands and stress hit a high note and it was challenging to juggle everything on your plate for a while. But then things would calm down and there was a longer period of time when you could concentrate on balancing your daily life demands. These calmer periods resulted in time to re-evaluate where you were deficient in your self-care practices and afford the time and focus to re-start and re-institute practices that supported you such as getting to the gym, shopping for your food to have in the house, and taking time for yourself to go to the yoga class you love.

Today, the situation is significantly different. In the 2020s and most likely beyond, there is no longer a pulsation of intense life demands followed by a calmer period. Advancing technology has created immediacy of communication, the blurring of time boundaries for work schedules and 24-hour access. We are also now working from our homes, which blurs the boundary of work and off time.  

I have observed that there are no longer periods of calmer times to balance out the times when we feel overwhelmed and teetering on the edge of completely losing it. We are seemingly constantly living on adrenaline and cortisol and waking up every day flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to our self-care. 

My purpose in highlighting all this is one point and it’s simple. If your game plan for self-care is to wait until life calms down so you can catch your breath and then re-start your healthy eating plan, exercise routine, meditation practice, whatever supports you, then you will never get back to taking care of yourself.  

My coaching advice is to wrap your head around the situation as it exists and figure out how to put practices that help you feel better right NOW in the midst of the chaos. I have so many clients who tell me about their past when they were able to lose the 40 pounds they had gained and when questioned deeper, discover that was right before they got married, before they had kids and before they started their own businesses or reached a high position in their company. In other words, when life was not as demanding.  

I have discovered that the stumbling block for most clients when it comes to scheduling and committing to the practices of self-care has to do with their mental approach. Those clients who are waiting for things to calm down continue to see weight gain, health issues, fatigue and low motivation. Those clients who wrap their mind around the situation as it is, that things will not calm down, are the ones that take on the project of how to fit in what they know they need to do and start to feel better. It may mean ordering a meal service for dinners. It may mean chunking up your hour walk into three 20-minute sessions spaced between Zoom meetings while working from home. It may mean blocking out an hour in your on-line schedule and label it Health Care Appointment and use it to take a nap. But whatever it is, the clients who are making strides on their physical and psychological goals are not waiting until things calm down.

Q: I know what I should eat to keep my weight where I like it and to feel my best, but even when I have taken the time to prep my food and have it available, often times I opt to not eat the food I prepared in order to eat something that I know I shouldn’t but that I crave. For instance, I might have my husband stop to get a pizza for dinner for my family even though I know I have defrosted chicken and have salad and vegetables all ready to go. I just don’t want that food in the moment. Help! My waist line is expanding beyond my comfort level!

A: How often I hear this exact scenario from clients who are intelligent, informed and, in most areas of their lives, self-disciplined! The perpetual conundrum I hear in particular from women is, “How can I be so successful in all other areas of my life and yet not be able to arrest my challenges with food?”

The answer to this question is that food is not something that we do just for nourishment or physical needs. Food is a substance that can bring comfort, love, fun, entertainment, excitement, companionship and help us to mentally shut up our own heads for the minutes we are eating so there can be a much-needed reprieve from our own self-abuse! And because food is generally easy access, available 24/7, and for the moment of eating it can satisfy what ails you psychologically, it is a hard habit to break. Food is unlike other substances that we also get similar benefits from such as alcohol, nicotine and illicit substances. You have to interface with food several times every day, whereas you could conceivably go through the rest of your life rarely interfacing with a cigarette or alcohol, for that matter, with a little strategic planning.

Because of this, it will behoove us to try to reduce its draw to physical hunger with the pleasure that comes from meeting this need and minimize its appeal for trying to supply the emotional needs we often look to it for. I have been schooled in coaching for what is referred to as primary and secondary food. Secondary food is the actual food that we choose to eat, and this is where most people who are trying to make healthier choices or better choices for weight loss usually put their attention. 

But secondary food is affected by primary food. Primary foods are not the foods that we eat. Primary foods are the healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice that fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary. 

Simply explained, our diet and therefore health are quite literally controlled by primary foods such as relationships, career, physical activity, spirituality, finance, confidence and others. So, if we’re in a negative relationship or if we hate our job, we’re more inclined to eat unhealthily. 

If you are observing yourself often eating off your plan even though you know what you should eat, the best strategy you can take is to look at the other non-food aspects of your life, identify where something is feeling unbalanced or dissatisfying and while working on your secondary food choices, simultaneously identify what primary foods are not satisfying you and take some strides to address these foods. In this way you will find the struggle to stay on your healthier food plan becomes easier to follow.

Written by: Judy Torel 

Judy Torel, owner of Judy Torel Fitness, is degreed, certified and credentialed in every discipline involved in changing habits that result in body changes. She holds certification through ACSM as an Exercise Specialist, nutrition certification through Precision Nutrition and a master’s degree from UAlbany in counseling psychology with a specialty in addictive behaviors. Judy is also a certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance and teaches meditation, breathing and physical yoga practice for stress and anxiety management. Recently, she became a Certified Health Coach through Institute of Integrative Nutrition. As an eight-time Ironman triathlete, she has dedicated her life to sharing the knowledge she has ascertained through her own experiences. Visit or call 518-469-0815 for more information about classes and her studio.